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LIVINGSTON, Robert R. [1746-1813] -- Statesman, Chancellor of New York

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Chancellor of New York

He was born in New York city, Nov. 27, 1746; son and second child of Robert R and Margaret (Beckman) Livingston.

He was graduated from King's college, A.B., 1765, A.M., 1768; studied law under William Smith and William Livingston; was admitted to the bar in 1773, and formed a partnership with John Jay, with whom he practised in New York city. He was recorder of the city of New York by appointment of Governor Tryon, 1773-75, being obliged to relinquish the position on account of his outspoken espousal of the patriot cause in 1775.

He was a member of the provincial assembly in 1775; was a delegate to the Continental congress, 1775-77 and 1779-81, and was a member of the committee of five, comprised of Adams, Jefferson, Franklin, Livingston and Sherman, appointed to draw up the Declaration of Independence, but was obliged to return to his duties in the provincial assembly without signing the instrument. He was a member of the committee that drafted the state constitution adopted at the Kingston convention in 1777. He was chancellor of the state under the new constitution, 1785-1891, and in that capacity he administered the oath of office to President Washington, April 30, 1789.

He was secretary of foreign affairs for the United States, 178l-83, and was chairman of the state convention at Poughkeepsie in 1788, to consider the adoption of the U.S. constitution. He declined the office or U.S. minister to France proffered by President Washington in 1794, and in 1801 the portfolio of the navy from President Jefferson, who also offered him the mission to France, which latter he accepted, resigning his chancellorship. While in France he formed a strong friendship with Napoleon Bonaparte; and he made the initial movement that resulted in the purchase of Louisiana from the French in 1803.

He travelled through Europe after resigning his office as U.S. minister in 1803, and while in Paris he became interested in the invention of the steamboat of ¤Robert Fulton, whom he assisted in his enterprise with his counsel and money, eventually becoming his partner. [see also, Samuel Morey] The first steamboat, owned by Livingston and Fulton, was built in France and was launched upon the Seine but was a failure, and on returning to America they had another steamboat, the Clermont, built and launched on the Hudson in 1807, which was a success. This boat was named after the Livingston home in Columbia county, N.Y. He retired from public life and resided at Clermont, where he engaged in agriculture and stock raising; was the first to introduce powdered gypsum in agriculture, and also introduced merino sheep west of the Hudson river. The honorary degree of LL.D. was conferred on him by the regents of the University of the State of New York in 1792.

He was a founder of the American Academy of Fine Arts in New York in 1801, and was its first president; was president of the New York Society for the Promotion of Useful Arts, and upon the reorganization of the New York Society library in 1788, he was appointed a trustee. He published many essays and addresses on fine arts and agriculture. His statue, with that of George Clinton, forming the group of the two most eminent citizens of New York, was placed in the capitol in Washington by act of congress. In the selection of names for placement in the Hall of Fame for Great Americans, New York university, made in October, 1900, his was one of the thirty-seven names in "Class M, Rulers and Statesmen," and received only three votes -- those votes in the class equalling those for Richard Henry Lee and Stephen A. Douglas, and exceeding those for Martin Van Buren, Charles Carroll of Carrollton, John J. Crittenden and Henry Wilson.

He was married to Mary, daughter of John Stevens, of New Jersey, and they had two children, Elizabeth S., who married Edward P. Livingston, and Margaret M., who married Robert L. Livingston. He died suddenly at Clermont, N.Y., Feb. 26, 1813.  -30-
 

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